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Do-or-die for Sweden, Paraguay

By Andrew Gray
June 15, 2006 12:48 IST
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The World Cup will be less than a week old when Sweden play Paraguay on Thursday (0030 IST, June 16), but both sides are already talking about packing their bags if they lose.

The first games in Group B have left England in pole position and a defeat for either team in Berlin's Olympiastadion would leave them struggling to make the next round.

Paraguay lost 1-0 to England in their opening game while Sweden drew 0-0 with debutants Trinidad & Tobago.

"This will be our final and if we lose we should just start packing," said Paraguay forward Nelson Haedo Valdez.

But Haedo Valdez has also taken heart from a narrow defeat in their opening game, which England won thanks to an early own goal by Paraguay captain Carlos Gamarra.

"If we play against Sweden like we did in the second half against England we can perform like equals to anyone," he said.

Sweden also believe they were unlucky in their first game. Coach Lars Lagerback said his team created 26 scoring chances but found Trinidad goalkeeper Shaka Hislop in inspired form.

Lagerback is clearly trying to put the best possible gloss on everything in the lead-up to the match.

He was even upbeat about an incident after the first game between captain Olof Mellberg and midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, described by the Swedish media as a row which came close to blows.

"If it had any effect on the team, I think it has had a positive effect," he said.

But even the positive-thinking coach has concluded anything less than victory against Paraguay could leave Sweden needing to beat England in their last match to qualify.

"We at least would need a win and a draw, maybe two wins (in our last two games)," he said.

"We have to win," said defender Erik Edman, aware the stakes are high for both sides. "They have to win and we have to win."

Thursday's match should see the return of Sweden's number one goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson, who missed the Trinidad game after suffering mild concussion in training last week.

Paraguay are deprived of their first choice keeper Justo Villar, who suffered a calf injury early in the England game and is expected to miss the rest of the finals.

He will be replaced in goal by Aldo Bobadilla.

Defender Delio Toledo injured his calf in training on Monday and has also been ruled out of the game.  

But coach Anibal Ruiz will make a virtue out of a necessity by bringing in attacking left back Jorge Nunez.

"He is good on the overlap, he likes to go forward, so that will give us more momentum," Ruiz said.

"We were too cautious against England in the first half and we need to play to our strengths, in our own style."

Probable teams

Sweden (4-4-2)

1-Andreas Isaksson; 2-Mikael Nilsson, 3-Olof Mellberg, 4-Teddy Lucic, 5-Erik Edman; 6-Tobias Linderoth, 9-Fredrik Ljungberg, 21-Christian Wilhelmsson, 16-Kim Kallstrom; 10-Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 11-Henrik Larsson.

Coach: Lars Lagerback

Paraguay (4-4-2)

22-Aldo Bobadilla; 21-Denis Caniza, 5-Julio Cesar Caceres, 4-Carlos Gamarra, 2-Jorge Nunez; 6-Carlos Bonet, 10-Roberto Acuna, 13-Carlos Paredes, 16-Cristian Riveros; 9-Roque Santa Cruz, 18-Nelson Haedo Valdez.

Coach: Anibal Ruiz

Referee: Lubos Michel (Slovakia)

Linesmen: Roman Slysko (Slovakia), Martin Balko (Slovakia)

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